Life is Fleeting and Eternity Long
Just returned from a trip to West Texas to tend to family affairs. No, it wasn’t a wedding, the birth of a child, nor a funeral. There wasn’t much social chatter or funny stories; the conversations were decidedly one sided. The house in which we lived in the crumbling little town of Pecos is no more, “fallen to staves” as the folks of old used to say, demolished and carried away to the rubbish heap. You see my family, those who raised, loved, and cared for me, lie in graves under the dust of the desert. My travel had a more grim purpose: pull the weeds, place the flowers, speak to those who have gone before and are tenderly missed. You may have done the same on another day with your family… or someday you will! Musings of an aging man? Yes, but if given enough years you will likely do the same. My efforts were not unique, by no means; it’s a scene experienced by each generation.
Moses lived through the same grim season, a sense of loss, realization of man’s mortality. He witnessed the death of his family, his peers, his nation, and watched them being buried beneath the dust of the desert during Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness. He was inspired to write a psalm of lament offering his reflections on life, sharing his wisdom and God’s eternal truth. Though he died in ancient times, his words are fresh still today and serve us well in reflection on the eternity of God and man’s fleeting life. Read with me, please, Psalm 90.
Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. 2 Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.
3 You turn man to destruction, And say, “Return, O children of men.” 4 For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, And like a watch in the night. 5 You carry them away like a flood; They are like a sleep. In the morning they are like grass which grows up: 6 In the morning it flourishes and grows up; In the evening it is cut down and withers.
7 For we have been consumed by Your anger, And by Your wrath we are terrified. 8 You have set our iniquities before You, Our secret sins in the light of Your countenance. 9 For all our days have passed away in Your wrath; We finish our years like a sigh. 10 The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away. 11 Who knows the power of Your anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath. 12 So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.
13 Return, O Lord! How long? And have compassion on Your servants. 14 Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, That we may rejoice and be glad all our days! 15 Make us glad according to the days in which You have afflicted us, The years in which we have seen evil. 16 Let Your work appear to Your servants, And Your glory to their children. 17 And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, And establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands.
God is eternal – Throughout our life, when we are young and need care, whether we are successful or suffer failure in our adult days, the one constant is God. We need God. Moses knew this, “have compassion on Your servants.” Our Creator gives us a time to live, cares for us when we suffer, and lifts us when we serve and glorify Him. He is “from everlasting to everlasting.” If we chose not to serve Him, our end will be destruction.
Life is brief and uncertain – This life is all we see and touch, but don’t fall prey to human thinking that falsely gives us confidence in earth’s pleasures, treasures, and certainty. From time to time, we are reminded of this truth.
Recently, a good golf buddy of mine was killed in an auto accident. I never thought that handshake would be our last. In James 4 we are reminded of the brevity, the fragile nature of life. “13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” 16 But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” Someone once said, “Live each day like it is your last.” That’s often hard to do, because for years we just keep waking up from our rest and facing the events of the day. We do this again and again, until we are deadened to the blessing. Then the day comes, we look back and ask, “Where did the years go?” Some day that wakeup just won’t happen. Be ready.
Finish the race - No matter how hard! For one day each of us will face judgment and answer for our choices. Moses knew God’s wrath, and we will as well. The apostle Paul tells us that we run a race for a crown that will last forever. Our race is not a sprint; rather, it is a race of endurance. If we fall, then we must rise again and again. A Japanese proverb says “fall seven times and get up eight.” You and I will stumble and fall more than a few occasions. If we cease to run, if we fail to finish, then we run in vain. “Run in such a way that you may obtain it.” 1 Cor 9:24
You’ll never make it to heaven alone - You’ll either be helped by someone else, or you will help your brother or sister finish their race! God in His wisdom has given us a spiritual family, who loves and cares. Pray that a brother or sister in Christ will see and come to your aid. Witnesses are watching, be it your spiritual or earthly family. Someday your children, your loved ones will stand over your grave. Live your life so they will speak well of you, and they will want to join you in heaven!
“We aren’t in the land of the living going to the land of the dying. We’re in the land of the dying going to the land of the living.” – Azinger